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(LEAD) Man given life sentence for murdering online friend he stalked, family members

All News 13:41 October 12, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with details of court ruling, background from 6th para)
By Park Bo-ram

SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Tuesday sentenced a young man to life imprisonment for brutally killing an online game mate he stalked and her family members, in a case that raised awareness about stalking crimes

The Seoul Northern District Court delivered the sentence to Kim Tae-hyun, 25, indicted on five criminal charges, including murder, housebreaking and theft.

Kim was arrested at the victims' home on March 25, with self-inflicted injuries, two days after killing the three women there. He had been stalking the family's eldest daughter, whom he met while playing online games last year.

As she cut communications with him, Kim disguised himself as a deliveryman to enter her home and killed the youngest daughter who was at home alone. He waited for the other two to come home and stabbed them to death when they arrived, according to a previous police probe.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Kim.

At issue was whether Kim planned to kill not only the estranged friend, but the others as well.

Prosecutors argued that the killings were premeditated because Kim knew when his friend would return home from work, but he came to their home hours ahead of her return.

Kim Tae-hyun, 25, speaks to the media at a police station in Seoul, in the April 9, 2021, file photo. (Yonhap)

Kim Tae-hyun, 25, speaks to the media at a police station in Seoul, in the April 9, 2021, file photo. (Yonhap)

Kim claimed the killings of the mother and the younger sister were not premeditated because he wasn't previously aware of the family structure. He said he accidentally killed the younger sister while trying to get her under control.

The court rejected Kim's claims and convicted him of all the charges against him.

"The younger sister and the mother were killed ... even though they had nothing to do with the defendant," the court said. "The crimes show Kim's extreme disregard of human life."

The court concluded the case does not warrant the death penalty, however, given that Kim admitted to most of the charges and that fairness of sentencing should be considered in comparison with other major criminal cases.

The murder case raised alarm bells about the gravity of stalking crimes, which had so far been handled under the minor offenses act. Under the law, stalking was categorized as "sustained harassment" and subject to up to a 100,000 won (US$83.4) fine.

The National Assembly belatedly enacted a new law on stalking on March 24, which will drastically increase the punishment on stalkers to up to five years behind bars or a 50 million-won fine.

The new act will go into force late this year, which means Kim wasn't indicted of stalking under the new law.


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